There is something a little different about TWT Group. They are an IT company with values that contrast with what comes to mind when considering the stereotyped IT business. Freedom, relationships and happiness are a few of the words founder and CEO Shawn Freeman chose to represent his company, and those values are clearly articulated when speaking with the entrepreneur. With an obvious passion for relationship-building and customer service, Freeman has believed in the power of communications and marketing since before TWT’s conception in 2011. Read on to find out how the young entrepreneur solves the challenges of marketing a business that is often unfamiliar territory to clients, and why he spends so much time on social media.
Tell us about TWT. What are the key words that come to mind when you are considering TWT’s brand essence?
TWT began as a one-man show about 5 years ago, and really took off about two years ago. Some of the TWT values we identified during our brand development with you guys were freedom, relationships, doing what’s right, innovation, and happiness. The ones that stand out most to me are doing what’s right, relationships, and freedom.
What led you down the path of entrepreneurship?
Well, the number one reason was that I felt as though I had gotten as far as I could in IT. I also felt there was a kind of mediocrity in the industry that I really believed I could change, so I decided to start my own thing.
When did TWT really take off, and has Calgary’s downturn economy led you to be weary starting your business?
Like I said, TWT started about 5 years ago when everything was still on the up and up. I ran it by myself for a couple years, until I had to start hiring and delegating and doing all those things they say you’re supposed to do. So yeah, timing was actually pretty good for me.
IT is an area that can be extremely foreign to the average person. What are some difficulties you have faced due to this?
I think the number one difficulty, for sure, is explaining to people what we are doing on a day-to-day basis. People really like to actually see you working when they are paying you. Even though we aren’t physically there, we are doing a lot in the background. In reality, if you don’t have to see your IT people, that means everything is going as it should. So to combat this, I try and keep in contact and touch base fairly often, build the relationships and remind clients that we are here, doing work, providing value.
Do you think the foreign nature of the content makes marketing TWT more challenging, and if so, why?
I think that is an assumption that people make, but no, not really. Like anything, you just need to get your name and brand out there. Clients don’t seem to care much about the details about what we do, they just want a solution. They want options and a competitive price, and marketing that isn’t challenging.
Innovation is a huge buzzword right now. What makes TWT “innovative” and stand out from the pack?
In this industry, things are constantly moving a changing… there is always a new drop box, new email provider and so on… You have to always be on top of this, so we are constantly trying news things and testing. I think some IT companies tend to keep the same old technology to keep things billable, but what sets us apart is we want to stay true to our values and do what’s right.
What were your marketing goals coming in to the partnership with William Joseph?
Our main goal was to grow our brand and get the word out.
As a business owner, did you recognize right off the bat the importance of marketing your business?
Yeah I for sure did. Three years ago, as we were getting busier, we got our brand together and developed our website… word of mouth only goes so far. A great brand gives you credibility, which you have to have. Especially in the beginning stages, a company needs to look bigger and more successful than they are and marketing helps to achieve that.
Which marketing campaigns have most inspired you, personally?
I am really inspired by campaigns that actually show people what to do. I can’t think of a particular one off the top of my head, but campaigns that connect people.
TWT is clearly big in to social media. How powerful do you think it can be for businesses, and why?
I think social media is a huge piece and has definitely helped me grow my business. The thing is, everyone knows now that they are supposed to do social media – everyone is on there, but not very many are using it to its full potential. We have gotten so many clients simply because I had developed a relationship with them over social media. They knew me, trusted me, and then when they needed help with IT, that relationship translated into a natural and easy sale.
Are there any marketing tactics that you are weary of, or plan to steer clear of?
I’m not the hugest fan of direct marketing, cold messaging, that kind of things. I would much rather someone say, “Hey, we are connected on Instagram, let’s grab a coffee sometime!” And then go from there, It’s kind of a quality versus quantity. Yes it takes time to meet people, build relationships and all that, and you won’t technically reach as many people, but your impact will be far greater.
Having just opened an office in Vancouver, it is clear that big things are coming for TWT. What are your next marketing steps?
I know I’ve talked about it a lot, but just relationship building, networking, meeting new people. Stuff like Small Business Week, we want to do more seminars, like Lunch and Learns, things like that.
Where do you see yourself taking TWT in the next five years?
So we slowly want to grow out west, but it’s so hard to say. Opportunities, like the Vancouver office, just kind of come up. The focus for me is just going to be on our customers, providing the best service we can, that will hopefully lead to more breaks for TWT.